Thursday, February 2, 2012

THE FALL (Tarsem Singh, 2007, UK)

Korova Theatre Top Ten 2008!
 The power of myth to restructure the world, the love of an innocent child; both can help us to see beauty through the veil of despair. Director Tarsem Singh takes us on an odyssey through the imagination of a crippled stuntman, addicted to morphine, and a little girl whom he befriends. 

Roy Walker (who only walks in “make-believe”) is a paraplegic who, while bedridden in a hospital, manipulates Alexandria into bringing him drugs; he’ll reveal more of his improvised fantasy epic if she’ll steal the pills, just like his mythological Masked Bandit. She naively agrees and as he sinks deeper into depression the story becomes infused with malignancy. Tarsem films in mind-blowing over-saturated colors and beautiful vistas, capturing the unreal within numerous deep focus compositions. This fantastic vision contrasts the subdued colors of the hospital and Roy’s self-destructive spiral, and it’s only the childlike innocence and wisdom of a little girl that saves him. But you must excavate the layers beneath the vivid stratum: Tarsem is showing us how stories can remake our lives, how fiction reveals more of the human spirit than a hardened reality, and how we manipulate both for our own benefit…or bane. 

Alexandria unknowingly shares the Eucharist with Roy and he jokingly asks if she is trying to save his soul; she doesn't understand and it’s this unconditional human love that is savior and not some Holy cracker; transubstantiation as imaginary as the five characters in the impish fable. 

Roy is heartbroken over his failed romance and his seemingly crippled existence; in his mind he is no longer a whole man. But he must weigh this suffering against the young Alexandria who has already witnessed the death of her father, the burning of her home, and the knowledge that her life may never amount to more than picking oranges. The film’s finale skips years ahead and we see Chaplin, Keaton, and other Silent Era greats projected into Alexandria’s 24 frames-per-second escapist montage: she imagines Roy in every film! But Roy’s fate is unknown, and his few indelible images could have been filmed before the accident. They each suffered a disheartening downfall; we can only hope they can rise above their unjust burden. 

Final Grade: (A)


Dusty said...

I love this film. It's a shame that not a lot of people know about it. Tarsem Singh has Kubrickian-level composition. He claims that he didn't use any green screens or camera tricks in the entire film. I hope he returns to more personal stories like this as opposed to films like Immortals or The Cell. The cinematography was still stunning in both of those movies but they didn't have the emotional impact of "The Fall".

Alex DeLarge said...

Agreed Dusty! This is such a "human" film, one that everyone can relate to. And it's one of the most beautiful looking films I've ever seen, eschewing CGI and blue-screen photography. The colors just pop from the screen!

Dusty said...

Well said. There's a particular scene where a bunch of villain simultaneously pop out of a temple. There's a bunch stair cases in the scene and it looks like its done with a split-screen. Apparently its not. It almost defies gravity to watch.

Branden Renfro said...

I don't know if it's me, but I thought that this movie was unwatchable. It looked great, but I didn't care about the story at all.

Anonymous said...

I love this film, and I love your post, but I'd like to correct one thing. This seems to be the most common misconception about this film. Roy is NOT addicted to morphine. He only wants it so he can kill himself with it. He's lost his girlfriend, and was paralyzed in a stunt gone wrong. He wants to die because he feels like "half-a-man".

Otherwise, well said, and I can't understand how anyone could think this movie is "unwatchable". I loved it so much I watched it twice in a row.

Alex DeLarge said...

Agreed, he was attempting suicide. Maybe addicted to his self-destructive impulse. This is a beautiful film (both visually and thematically) and one I watch at least once a year. I often use the blu-ray to calibrate color on home theatre setups. Thanks for posting your comments:-)

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